Open Policy Issues

The table below list the open technical and policy issues related to SMRs and non-light water reactors that the NRC has been tracking to resolution since 2010. This list was originally included in SECY-10-0034 and has been updated periodically to show the current status of the issues. The NRC will to continue to update this list as needed.

Issue Title/Applicability Status References

I. Appropriate Source Term, Dose Calculations, and Siting for SMRs

Applicability: SMRs and non-LWRs

In the December 29, 2011, memorandum to the Commission, the staff stated it would remain engaged with SMR stakeholders regarding applications of mechanistic source term (MST) methods, review of pre-application white papers and topical reports it receives from potential SMR applicants concerning source term issues that discuss design-specific proposals to address MST, and considerations of research and development in this area. If necessary, the staff would propose revised review guidance or regulations, or propose new guidance to support reviews of SMRs.

In Commission Memoranda dated May 30, 2013, and June 20, 2014, the staff provided updates on interactions with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and nuclear industry organizations regarding MST. On February 7, 2016, the staff provided the Commission SECY 16-0012, which addressed this item. The paper concluded that (1) SMR and non-light water reactor (non-LWR) applicants can employ modern analysis tools to demonstrate quantitatively the safety features of those designs, and (2) MST analysis methods can also be used by applicants to demonstrate the ability of the enhanced safety features of plant designs to mitigate accident releases, allow future COL applicants to consider reduced distances to Exclusion Area Boundaries and Low Population Zones and potentially increase proximity to population centers.

Disposition: The staff continues to engage with interested stakeholders on this issue. The staff developed a draft white paper summarizing the assessment of current siting regulations, guidance, and Commission policy and discussed it in a public meeting on December 14, 2017. During a May 3, 2018, public meeting, NEI provided feedback on this topic on behalf of the nuclear industry. The NEI stated their position that Regulatory Guide (RG) 4.7, "General Site Suitability Criteria for Nuclear Power Stations," should be updated to scale the population density guidance based on the smaller source term and lower probability of release anticipated for SMRs and advanced reactors. In June 2019, Oak Ridge National Laboratory completed a technical report ORNL/TM-2019/1197, "Advanced Reactor Siting Policy Considerations," identifying potential alternative siting criteria for SMRs and non-LWRs recognizing the possible reduced offsite releases for advanced reactor designs. The report provided insights to inform the staff's plans to develop additional regulatory guidance for SMR and non-LWR siting. On June 13, 2019, the staff released a second draft white paper, "Population-Related Siting Considerations for Advanced Reactors," to facilitate stakeholder discussions at a public meeting that was held on June 27, 2019. The staff addressed stakeholder feedback and issued a draft SECY paper on July 19, 2019 to support meetings with the ACRS subcommittee on August 23, 2019, and with the ACRS Full Committee 0n September 4, 2019. The staff provided SECY-20-0045, "Population Related Siting Considerations for Advanced Reactors," to the Commission on May 8, 2020. In SECY-20-0045, the staff provided options and a recommendation to the Commission on possible changes to guidance documents to address population-related siting considerations for advanced reactors. In SECY-SRM-20-0045, the Commission approved the staff's recommendation to revise the population-related siting guidance used to implement Commission policy to provide technology-inclusive, risk-informed, and performance-based criteria to assess certain population-related issues in siting advanced reactors. The staff’s update to Regulatory Guide 4.7 to address this issue is underway. 

The staff also developed a dedicated webpage to provide information about nuclear power reactor source term for stakeholders considering pre-application engagements with the NRC or developing applications for new nuclear power reactors under Parts 50 and 52.

SRM-SECY-20-0045  (07/13/2022)

SECY-20-0045 (05/08/20)

Draft SECY paper

Staff White Paper (06/13/2019)

Staff Draft White Paper (11/29/17)

SECY-16-0012 (02/07/16)

Commission Memo (06/20/14)

Commission Memo (05/30/13)

Commission Memo (12/29/11)

II. Offsite Emergency Planning (EP) Requirements for SMRs and other new technology

Applicability: SMRs and non-LWRs

In SECY-11-0152, the staff identified a possible approach for a scalable emergency planning zone for SMRs. The NRO staff is working with NSIR and NRR on an internal working group to review these issues further. As part of the approach, the staff would liaise with other stakeholders (Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of State, Department of Commerce, NEI, American Nuclear Society, and the public), consider NEI position papers on this topic and develop recommendations.

In a May 30, 2013, Commission memorandum, the staff provided updates on its EP activities. The staff stated that it would not propose new policy or revise guidance for specific changes to EP requirements absent specific proposals from industry stakeholders.

On December 23, 2013, NEI submitted a white paper on this topic. The staff conducted a public meeting to discuss the white paper on April 8, 2014, issued follow-up questions to NEI on June 11, 2014, and received NEI responses in November 2014. On May 29, 2015, the staff issued SECY-15-0077 regarding EP for SMRs and non-LWRs. On August 4, 2015, the Commission approved the staff's recommendation to initiate a rulemaking. The staff developed SECY-16-0069, which discussed the rulemaking plan and schedule. On June 22, 2016, the Commission approved the staff's plan and schedule for the rulemaking.

Disposition: The rulemaking will address EP issues for future SMRs and other new technologies, including non-LWRs and medical radioisotope facilities. The Commission directed the staff to utilize exemptions in the interim (e.g., for the TVA ESP) until completion of the EP rulemaking. The draft regulatory basis was published for public comment in the Federal Register on April 13, 2017. A public meeting was held May 10, 2017, to discuss the draft regulatory basis. The public comment period closed on June 27, 2017. After considering the public comments, the staff issued the final regulatory basis on October 16, 2017. The staff discussed this rulemaking during a June 14, 2018, stakeholder meeting. The staff released the draft proposed rule language on August 1, 2018 to support ACRS briefings on August 22 and October 4, 2018. The proposed rule was provided to the Commission for its consideration in SECY-18-0103 on October 12, 2018. On December 17, 2019, in SRM-SECY-18-0103, the Commission approved publication of the proposed rule. On May 12, 2020, the staff published the proposed rule in the Federal Register (85 FR 28436) for public comment. The final rule was provided to the Commission for consideration in SECY-22-0001, "Rulemaking: Final Rule Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies (RIN 3150-AJ68; NRC-2015-0225)" on January 3, 2022.

SECY-22-0001  (01/03/2022)

Proposed Rule (85 FR 28436 05/12/20)


SECY-18-0103 (10/12/18)

Final Regulatory Basis (10/16/17)

SRM-SECY-16-0069 (06/22/16)

SECY-16-0069 (05/31/16)

SRM-SECY-15-0077 (08/04/15)

SECY-15-0077 (05/29/15)

NEI Response to NRC Questions on White Paper (11/19/14)

NRC Letter to NEI (R. Bell) (06/11/14)

NEI White Paper (12/23/13)

Commission Memo (05/30/13)

SECY-11-0152 (10/28/11)

III. Security and Safeguards Requirements for SMRs

Applicability: SMRs and non-LWRs

On December 14, 2016, NEI submitted a white paper on a "Proposed Consequence-Based Physical Security Framework for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies." This paper "... proposes an approach to security that considers the enhanced safety and security incorporated into these designs and provides a more effective and efficient means to protect the public health and safety." In the transmittal letter, NEI requests that "... the NRC establish regulatory positions on this approach and the associated policy and technical issues."

Disposition: The NRC met with NEI on May 3, 2017, to discuss the review of their submittal. The NRC provided feedback on NEI's white paper in July 2017, and met with NEI again on October 12, 2017. The staff prepared a draft white paper to facilitate stakeholder interactions. The staff discussed this white paper with NEI and other stakeholders on December 13, 2017. The staff considered stakeholder input and prepared SECY-18-0076, "Options for Physical Security For Light-Water Small Modular Reactors And Non-Light-Water Reactors," which was sent to the Commission on August 1, 2018. On November 19, 2018, the Commission directed the staff to initiate a limited-scope revision to regulations and guidance related to physical security for advanced reactors and approved, subject to edits, a related rulemaking plan.  The staff prepared a regulatory basis which was published in the Federal Register on July 16, 2019, for public comment.  The staff engaged with stakeholders throughout the development of the draft proposed rule by holding 11 public meetings, issuing 3 versions of preliminary proposed rule language, and requesting public feedback.

The staff provided the draft proposed rule to the Commission for Consideration in SECY-22-0072, "Proposed Rule: Alternative Physical Security Requirements for Advanced Reactors (RIN 3150-AK19)" August 2, 2022. 

SECY-22-0072  (8/02/2022)

Regulatory Basis (07/16/2019)

SECY-18-0076 (08/01/18)

Staff Draft White Paper (11/29/17)

NEI White Paper (12/14/16)

SECY-11-0184 (12/29/11)

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, October 04, 2022